Groves urges Gunners to win ugly in quest for title
Arsenal must get ugly next season if they are to have any chance of challenging for the Premiership and the Champions League. Gunners' cult hero Perry Groves says playing the beautiful game is no good if you end up with no trophies.
By Jem Maidment
Arsenal must get ugly next season if they are to have any chance of challenging for the Premiership and the Champions League.
Gunners' cult hero Perry Groves says playing the beautiful game is no good if you end up with no trophies.
This is the second successive season the club has been left empty-handed, and Groves is frustrated as anyone - but he believes rising star Abu Diaby could hold the key to a title tilt in August. In an exclusive end-of-season assessment, he also told Ham&High Sport:
l Arsene Wenger will almost certainly sign a new contract and stay beyond the end of next season
l Blackburn striker Benni McCarthy would be the perfect summer signing.
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l And the time has come to drop vice-captain Gilberto Silva.
The flame-haired winger - who won two titles and a Littlewoods Cup at Highbury between 1987 and 1992 - has enjoyed a renaissance with the Arsenal faithful in the past year since the release of his best-selling autobiography, We All Live In A Perry Groves World.
But while it's been a great 12 months personally, he says another season of underachievement for Arsenal, who his uncle Vic also played for in the 1950s, would be "totally unacceptable".
"We lost Dennis Bergkamp and Robert Pires - two of the best players at Highbury in the past 25 years - and that was tough to begin with," explained Groves.
"We had the move to the new stadium and all that it brings. And we had injuries to key players - Robin van Persie and Thierry Henry missed practically half a season each. That is potentially another 30 goals which would be maybe 15 extra points.
"So our season was over in March but there were mitigating circumstances. However, it must not happen again."
The key, he says, is to get tough. "I think Diaby is a super player. He's strong, physical and has superb technique. I have seen him play out wide and he is wasted there. Next season he should start in the middle with Cesc Fabregas, that's a partnership with awesome potential. And it could transform the side. It would also mean no room for Brazilian Silva.
"I love him, he's a great player and I've nothing against him. But we don't need him at home. He is a holding player and at The Emirates we play higher up the pitch. At home we conceded the first goal over a dozen times. We need to get that first goal then we can really rip teams apart. Gilberto will not help that."
And while Newcastle duo Michael Owen and Obafemi Martins are both reportedly Wenger targets, Groves says the boss should look at another northern-based striker - Blackburn's McCarthy.
The South African international has made it clear he wants to leave Ewood Park. "Wenger says he is happy with the squad he has but I strongly believe you should always freshen up," added Groves.
"And if I was him I would snap up McCarthy. He has the pedigree to get goals. Don't forget, he won the Champions League at Porto under Jose Mourinho. He is strong, fast and has a super touch. And anyone who can score goals for a team like Blackburn who just hoof the ball has to be a genius."
Off the pitch, Wenger is entering the final year of his contract. A new one is sitting on his desk waiting to be signed - but so far it has stayed in its envelope.
Not to worry, says Groves. The boss will stay. "He just wouldn't go to any other club," he said. "Arsenal is his club. It's his training ground and his stadium. And they are his players. I'd be amazed if he didn't sign a new deal - it would be like a father abandoning his children."
Overall, though, Groves says at times he has been left spellbound after another year of Arsenal under the Frenchman.
"I now do a lot of corporate work for the club on match days and it is a great job," he added. "The football I watch is some of the best I have ever seen, certainly the most entertaining of the past 20 or 30 years.
"It was terrible the season was effectively over from March onwards - that defeat to PSV in the Champions League still hurts.
"It was like we were a hot air balloon that was rising and then, all of a sudden, the balloon burst and we plummeted to the ground.
"But you can't take away the entertainment factor. Still, maybe it's time to get back to basics, maybe get a bit boring - and start winning trophies again.
"Next season is massive for the club and for Wenger. We're the Arsenal, a massive club which expects to win trophies every year. It would be totally unacceptable if we had no silverware again next May."